When a cavity is deep enough to reach the nerve of a tooth, it may result in pain. Many times, the warning signs of a deep cavity are sensitivity to temperature or sweets or pain upon biting. If not treated, the pain can lead to an infection as the nerve and blood supply within the tooth die, making a bountiful smorgasbord for bacteria.
When decay or injury exposes the nerve of a tooth, the treatment choices are significantly reduced. Usually, placing a filling will not solve the problem. Either extraction of the tooth or removal of the dead or dying nerve is indicated. The removal of the nerve is called Root Canal Therapy and is employed successfully on millions of teeth every year.
After the tooth is numbed with anesthetic, the decay is removed and access to the nerve canals is made. The nerve tissue is removed with little instruments and the canal space is enlarged and smoothed with a series of tiny drills. Once cleaned, properly shaped and flushed of debris, the roots of the tooth are hollow like drinking straws. Sometimes a special laser is used to disinfect the inside of the roots before filling it up, killing many more bacteria than with conventional methods. After disinfection, the hollow canals are filled with a soft, warm, inert material that seals the canals so that bacteria can´t get back in and hide.
A tooth that´s had root canal therapy usually requires lost tooth structure to be replaced with a filling material and oftentimes placement of a crown to restore strength and prevent future fractures of the tooth. Following root canal therapy, there should be elimination of temperature sensitivity and pain upon biting. Recovery is usually uneventful.
Most root canals are completed in one appointment at Northside Family Dentistry. Occasionally, due to complexity or patient request, referrals are made to competent local endodontic specialists who limit their practices to root canal therapy exclusively.